GALION — Galion City Council’s Tuesday, March 8 meeting contained tense words between Mayor Tom O’Leary and Council member Paula Durbin. The exchange opened with Durbin asking O’Leary about the city’s water contamination readings, particularly the report sent with utility bills this past weekend, which stated that TTHM levels are up. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls and text messages from concerned citizens… Do you know what is causing this, and are we on top of it?” Durbin inquired.
O’Leary responded, “We are certainly working on it” with the EPA, continuing, “We will ask council to approve an engineer for improvements… to address the underlying issue… probably next month.” He went on to explain that the readings that were just shared are three-month averages that include past higher levels of contaminants. Over time, O’Leary said, these readings will show that drops are happening.
O’Leary chided website/group Galion City Watch for not printing the city’s responses to their complaints about the handling of the city’s water pollution issue, and for publishing emails from the EPA before city officials had received the emails. He asked that council members direct concerned citizens to contact his office for more information.
Durbin countered, “I don’t think you’ve been very transparent with council or the citizens about the problems with the water plant in the last few years.”
O’Leary replied, “I think you’re entitled to that opinion, and if anybody else supports that, just go ahead and pile on… The same mayor who is ‘so negligent’ got a million dollars to fix the problem. I just thought that would be worth mentioning… So the suggestions [are false] that we’re not doing anything and that we’re putting people in danger.”
He went on to say that there were no violations a year ago and that when the city became aware of the problem of TTHMs about six to eight months ago, they immediately started addressing it.
The meeting also saw the suspension of rules to pass multiple Ordinances and Resolutions as emergencies, with the rules suspended in order to make the readings of the legislation “final.” Ordinance 2022-11 Central Hotel Purchase Agreement was one of these. City Law Director Thomas Palmer explained to council that the ordinance came out of an Economic Development meeting two weeks ago, and allows for the city to accept ownership of the Central Hotel.
Several Central Hotel residents were in attendance at the meeting and inquired about the management company, which Mayor Tom O’Leary said would remain the same for the near future, while the city evaluates its options for management.
Among the oridances, Ordinance 2022-12 Amending 2022 Appropriations, which originated in the Finance Committee, allows for the city to expend money for renovations of the Depot. O’Leary clarified that the funds would enable the city to select an architect for the project.
Ordinance 2022-19, which was added to the agenda, also entitled Amending 2022 Appropriations, provides for Health Department funds to be used for the continuation of mosquito surveillance and abatement.
The only ordinance to receive its first reading at the meeting was Ordinance 2022-18, Setting the PCA (Power Cost Adjustment), which Council member and Utilities Committee Chair Kara Ault explained came from studies which recommended two different amounts of increase to Galion’s electric rates. “We went with the lower one,” Ault stated, an increase of .34 percent, effective April 1, 2022. The Central Hotel residents who were in attendance expressed concern about the increase in their electric bills. O’Leary asserted that the passage of Ordinance 2022-11 will permit the city to try to fix issues such as inefficient windows and abate the high electric heat costs residents have been experiencing.
In Resolution 2022-3, Andee Wildenthaler was appointed to the Port Authority board. Resolution 2022-4 appointed Ault to the CRA Housing Council. Both resolutions were passed as emergencies on “final readings” with a suspension of the rules.
The swearing-in of Eric Webber as City Council President opened the meeting; Webber then presided over the meeting. Webber replaces Carl Watt, who had served in the role for nearly a decade and resigned in February. Webber expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for the position, as well as admiration and respect for his predecessor, Watt. Mayor Tom O’Leary also commended Watt for his help in the transition of the city’s government after citizens voted to adopt the statutory form of government, ending the charter-governance of the city.
Ault informed council that the city’s new dog parks are already being enjoyed, despite their lack of a formal opening. O’Leary thanked staffer Matt Echelberry for his work in developing the project, which so far has seen installation of chain-link fencing at Cobey Park and South Park. O’Leary noted that signage — particularly to inform park-goers that they are under video surveillance — as well as trash cans and eventually restrooms, will be added to the parks in the future. O’Leary also thanked former Council member Shirley Clark for her efforts to enhance the city’s parks over the years, particularly the parks on Galion’s east side.
Council also heard a presentation by Nadine Thompson of the Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (GLCAP) on Fair Housing and Discrimination Law. Ohio law prohibits discrimination against many protected classes of citizens. Thompson stated that forty percent of discrimination cases are dismissed because of lack of evidence; she advised that anyone suspecting that they are the target of discrimination gather as much evidence as possible to help their claim. Additional information about Ohio’s Fair Housing laws and about filing discrimination claims can be found at https://www.glcap.org/